Elderly man dies in fire at his home

Firefighters break past flames to find 100-year-old in wheelchair

acornejo@thetribunenews.comFebruary 12, 2011 

A small stack of charred photo albums, a few pieces of china and a couple of burnt books were all that remained Saturday at a fire-ravaged San Luis Obispo home after a blaze that killed the 100-year-old man who lived there.

The house at 14 Villa Court was engulfed at 10:46 p.m. Friday when firefighters arrived.

But they knew they had to somehow get in quickly because neighbors told them an elderly man who used a wheelchair and lived alone was still inside.

San Luis Obispo Fire Department Battalion Chief Neil Berryman said the man’s next-of-kin had been notified of his death, but that the county Coroner’s Office is not disclosing his name until a positive identification can be confirmed.

The condominium’s resident was Roy Jones, according to public records. His late wife, Janey — who died in April 1999 at age 81, according to Social Security Administration death records — had also lived there, records show.

After rescuers arrived, a firefighter kicked the front door down but was immediately pushed back by heavy flames, smoke and extreme heat. Pushing through the flames, he went in anyway.

Ron Veillette, who has been with the department for 20 years, went around the back of the house and in through a window, its glass blown out by the heat.

Veillette and two partners worked to put out the fire in the kitchen while also battling flames coming from behind them as more and more debris caught fire.

“We couldn’t see anything,” Veillette said. “But knowing that someone was in there made us all push harder than normal.”

When he found a fellow firefighter’s hose nozzle unattended, Veillette said, he knew that they had found the elderly man, figuring that a firefighter had put down the hose to attend to the victim.

“I picked up the nozzle, and we met in the hallway,” he said Saturday, recounting how he saw the man being carried out. “And then I used water to knock down the fire in the garage so that they could get him out that way.”

Firefighters had found the man, not breathing, in his wheelchair in the bedroom. It was the only room in the house not consumed by flames at the time.

Medics from the city Fire Department and San Luis Ambulance did CPR and advanced life support at the scene, according to a Fire Department report. Jones was later pronounced dead at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center.

The fire was put out about 15 minutes after the first call came in, according to the Fire Department.

A firefighter was also taken to the hospital to be treated for second-degree burns to his ears and the back of his neck. He was later released.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated. But authorities believe it started in the kitchen either at the gas stove or by an electrical short circuit.

The Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service